Practical Guidelines for Session Chairs

Before the Annual Meeting

  • Communicate with participants in advance, requesting any information you need to introduce them effectively, including their personal pronouns and the pronunciation of their name. If applicable, ask for a copy of their prepared remarks. Keep the introductions brief. 
  • Be mindful of the time. Inform participants well in advance how long their presentations should take; be sure to leave ample time for discussion. Feel free to remind presenters that if they are speaking from a prepared text, one hundred words=approximately one minute.
  • Ask participants if any of them would prefer that the session not be live tweeted.
  • Please prepare a 3–5 minute introduction; this time is your opportunity to offer context for the session. What is at stake? Why do you think this is going to be an interesting conversation?
  • You might also consider preparing a few questions that will stimulate conversation among the panelists.

At the Panel Session

  • Start at the appointed time, welcome everyone to the session, and include the title of the session in your greeting for those who might have wandered into the wrong room.
  • Ask everyone to silence cell phones and other devices. Inform the audience if you are requesting that the session not be live tweeted.
  • Be concise in introducing the speakers.
  • Warn speakers when their time is nearly up, and stop them when they exceed it.
  • Presentations, panelists’ remarks, and comments should conclude 30 minutes before the scheduled end of the session to allow for discussion with the audience.
  • If you are moderating the discussion, repeat or summarize all questions and comments from the audience so that everyone can hear.
  • When moderating discussions, be sure to call on a diverse group of questioners. Be prepared to challenge offensive or discriminatory comments.
  • Do not allow the discussion to continue beyond the session’s announced end time.
  • Live tweeting: To facilitate virtual conversations arising from the annual meeting, the AHA encourages attendees to live tweet using both the meeting hashtag and the session hashtag, which is simply "s" and the session number: for example, session #1 would be hashtag #s1. Participants are encouraged to share their Twitter handles at the beginning of their presentations. Speakers presenting material that they do not wish to be live tweeted should make a request to the audience at that point, as well.